Patience is Key When Marketing Stock Imagery

Having been away from the business for three years and coming back has been an eye opening experience. I’m seeing a few changes, and a lot of the same questions and issues coming from contributors. Unfortunately, I see there are a few folks I used to enjoy collaborating with who are no longer in the business as well. Here are some constant points that new contributors could benefit from, and perhaps veterans in the business could use a reminder of.

Have Patience

I liken the creation and marketing of an image similar to investing in the stock market with a “buy and hold” mentality. When you create an image, take the time to post process it, and take the time to list it through an agency, you are making an investment. Some investments are going to be more prosperous than others having higher returns. Others are not going to do much. They may sit and pay a dividend every once in a while, but they aren’t going to produce as well unless there’s a change in “market direction”. Some are going to be sexy to have – you’ll be able to brag to your friends about how great an investment (image) it is, how colorful or sharp the image is (great balance sheet), and that’s about it…it will sit and look nice in the portfolio, but it may not do much. The key is, if you aren’t invested in the market, it isn’t going to do anything for you. Your image will sit on your hard drive just as cash stuffed in a mattress sits and has no returns.

The key is to have a well diversified portfolio of different investment types…and to hold those images in the market for a significant amount of time.

Don’t Take Things Personally

Reviewing images is a subjective task. Aside from technical aspects surrounding an image, such as reviewing for focus, color, artifacts, etc., a reviewer may look at an image and determine it’s not marketable or it has the appearance of a “snapshot”. The advantage of working with different agencies is that each agency can market to its particular customer segment. If an image is refused for something other than technical reasons, there’s a pretty good chance that it isn’t going to do well at that agency anyway. There’s no reason to be upset at the refusal – just move on and submit it to a different agent. If you find yourself getting the same image refused for non-technical reasons at multiple agencies, then perhaps you should look at the composition of the image and determine if your intentions are in line with what’s required for commercial stock imagery.

It’s a good idea to remember that image reviewers are looking out for the best interest of both the agency, and the photographer. The agency wants to market the best images it can get its hands on, and the photographer wants to put his best face forward in front of customers. If both conditions aren’t met, then it could be bad business for both parties.

Trends are Cash Cows – Good Images are Timeless

Looking back through my portfolio I ran across an image of a pair of glasses on a 2005 Form 1040 income tax form. I think that image sold maybe a dozen times. That image will never be marketable again because it is specific to one year and was only on the market for about 3 months (the IRS releases forms in December and the marketable time of the image is about 2 months). Re-establishing my portfolio, the first image to get licensed again was that of a building being torn down. I created that image in 2005 and here it is six years later. Buildings will always be torn down, there will always be destruction, the construction and demolition industry are going to be around for centuries. This image, though not sexy, will be marketable for as long as images of that size and quality are available on the market.

Create images that are timeless and don’t expire, and you will continue to receive a payout for years to come.

Invest for the Long Term

This is one I learned from personal experience. Three years ago, there were some financial issues I needed to get over. I had to close the company down for a period of time. The reason is I insisted on having the latest and greatest equipment thinking it would make me a better photographer. While it’s true that good equipment will help to produce good looking images, it’s more important to note that an image or concept of great marketing potential is not dependent on the equipment utilized.

I once worked as a carpenter for a short period of time. My boss, who is also a friend, showed me that a screwdriver will work as a chisel, a knife will work as a screwdriver, sandpaper on a block of wood can be just as effective as an electric sander. If you know your trade, the equipment doesn’t matter. Know your trade. Buy quality tools that will last for years to come. Don’t buy the latest gadgets because you think they will make you better. Creating images will make you better.

Patience is key when marketing your images. Trends will come and go but if you have the patience to allow your images to sell, the patience to allow an agency to represent your best work that suits their customer base, and if you have the patience and self-control not to fall for the latest gadgetry, you will find yourself positioned well in the business of selling stock photography.

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Photo credits: Wysiwygfoto.

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June 20, 2011


I signed in on DT, because I wanted to know if I take good pictures. I knew that DT is reviewing your pictures and then, if is the case, it will reject them with the appropiate reason and those reasons helped me improve my self.

You're right, patience is the key.

June 20, 2011


thank you very much, patience is the problem...........

June 12, 2011


This is very helpful. Thanks for sharing

June 12, 2011


Very nice article.

June 08, 2011


Thanks for sharing!

June 08, 2011


Very useful, thanks for sharing!

June 07, 2011


coincidentally, on my latest modeling assignment , my client actually made a remark after I told him that I branched out into stock photography . He took the meaning "stock" as "time investment ... the longer you keep it, the more money you're likely to earn". Honestly, I never thought of that in microstock. But these past months, I have noticed that many of my oldest works are now giving me back "my investment".
Perharps, it's Dreamstime search algorithm that rewards contributorship on their sticking out long term ,I am not sure... what do you think?
Although I would prefer that my latest, being my best works to date, get the priority in the search to be used by DT clients, I am also glad that the oldest stuff are being found by the clients as well.
I wish there was a way to get both new and old to be found by the clients. Maybe they do, when after downloading the oldest stuff, they come back to look at your newest works.
Yes, .. patience is definitely needed in stock...
also, the need to resist temptation to just be a copycat of the top sellers. I think that separates the newbie from the cream of the crop,
as lately I have been reading some well repeated reminders from top sellers to find your own niche, as there is no way you can succeed just copying the top sellers. It's a slow process but certainly more rewarding to find your own niche.

June 06, 2011


I wish there was a place on this website where buyers could let contributors know, for times when they dont find an image they were looking for, what it is they wanted so you the creator would know. Wouldnt that be an easier way to figure out what to shoot for making a profit? I know Ive found lots and lots of shots that would have been perfect if they only had copy space. That happens to be one of my top problems when looking for stock photos - if only that shot, and that shot, and that shot were taken both cropped and with copy space. I would have spent more!

Well, you are free to write a blog about what you want, or make actual specific requests in the photo and illustration request forum. Copy space is a constant problem for contributors - if you crop tightly your thumbnail usually has more impact and sales, and leads buyers to notice your shot in the first place. But if you crop too tightly you lower its potential for use and buyer's cropping.

You can also request the RAW file, or message the contributor to request if they have another shot in the series with more copyspace...

June 06, 2011


I wish there was a place on this website where buyers could let contributors know, for times when they don't find an image they were looking for, what it is they wanted so you the creator would know. Wouldn't that be an easier way to figure out what to shoot for making a profit? I know I've found lots and lots of shots that would have been perfect if they only had copy space. That happens to be one of my top problems when looking for stock photos - if only that shot, and that shot, and that shot were taken both cropped and with copy space. I would have spent more!

June 04, 2011


Very nice article.Sober and helpful.

June 01, 2011


I like constructive blogs - many thanks!

May 30, 2011


Thanks for sharing....

May 28, 2011


A very interesting and helpful analysis of stock photography. Thanks for sharing your tips.

May 26, 2011


I found your blog very helpful.Good tips, no doubt. Thanks

May 26, 2011


Thanks for sharing. There are many great tips in there

May 25, 2011


Thanks Ed, I like my toys but try not to upgrade very often. I tried to ride the back of the digital wave. Saved a lot of cash over the years. Even sold my Hasselblad before it became an expensive paper weight. Feeling pretty good I didn't buy one of those 30,000 dollar TWO megapixel slr cameras in the early days..... Good points for us all. Cheers Dave

May 25, 2011


Thanks for posting that. It was a good educated guess on your part :)

May 25, 2011


Great tips!

May 24, 2011


Good stuff - it is not easy to not take things personally but I definitely think this essential! Thanks for taking the time.

May 24, 2011


Interesting blog!

May 23, 2011


Great blog, thanks for sharing...

May 23, 2011


Dear Ed, thanks for publishing this nice article. best regards Beat

May 23, 2011


A very helpful article. Thanks

May 23, 2011


Interesting article!!!

May 23, 2011


Very good article! Every new contributor should read this! :)

May 23, 2011


Great article! Enjoyed reading it. Thank you Ed!

May 23, 2011


Superb article, it may sound obvious but quite often the obvious things are often over looked!

May 22, 2011


Thank you!

May 22, 2011


Great words of advice, thanks for sharing Ed

May 22, 2011


nice share

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